By the time you are reading this the Brighton and Hove Food Festival will be over for another year. I hope that you managed to get out and enjoy some of it, there is a lot of effort that goes into creating the many events that take place and the festival weekend on Hove Lawns. I was able to make it along to a few events this year and will be telling you all about them in the coming weeks, starting with my festival opener at Isaac At.
Isaac At have been with us for a few years now, evolving from a weekly pop up to a more regular restaurant experience. The intimate restaurant is a regular feature in listings for Brighton’s top places to eat, and they team have worked hard to maintain that reputation. Their Sussex fine dining concept is all about keeping things local wherever possible, providing diners with a list of suppliers and the food miles travelled. The festival event was very much a local affair, teaming the fine dining restaurant up with local farm Trenchmore.
Trenchmore farm are purveyors of grass fed Sussex wagyu beef and Silly Moo cider. Their beef is highly prized in local restaurants for its superb quality in terms of taste and animal husbandry. Joanna and Andrew Knowles realised a lifelong dream in taking on the farm near Cowfold, branching out into the world of cider when they planted an orchard in an empty field. Silly Moo cider is the result of this expansion. They create it using their own apples and those provided by the public during their annual apple swap, which will be taking place at the end of the month and into October.
The meal would see the team at Isaac create a five-course meal showcasing Trenchmore produce in each course. It promised to be a match made in heaven, and I for one was very much looking forward to seeing how it panned out.
After some pre-snacks, including the always excellent bread, we kicked off with a vegetable starter of cauliflower with beef fat and smoked apple. It is an elegantly plated dish that whets the appetite for things to come. This is followed by a second starter of oxtail casserole with mashed potato. It is a deceptively light dish, and is certainly the most delicate casserole I’ve eaten. The beef is the star of the show here with a rich flavour which is matched by the luxuriously buttery mash.
Main of Denver steak with mushroom ketchup really celebrates the quality of Trenchmore beef and has been cooked to perfection. The meat is superb and I could happily have eaten a large slab of this and nothing else for the whole meal. Throughout the meal we are treated to a flight of Sussex wines, all of which are introduced with a knowledge and passion for the subject by the front of house team.
A palette cleansing cider and lemon thyme sorbet reminds me just how well the Isaac At team can freeze things. The ephemeral sorbet is so smooth and delicate you barely even notice it has any form at all, leaving you with a light and refreshing reminder in your mouth.
We finish with a strangely familiar dessert of almond cake, pink peppercorn and apple ice cream which I thoroughly enjoy with childish glee; apple desserts always remind me of being a child for some reason.
The meal is a veritable success. It is great to see restaurants and producers working together in such harmony and celebrating the produce of the area. I felt that the steak was an absolute stand out element of the meal, and wished there was a little more of it. I enjoy the English wine pairing, although I still feel we do not have the right conditions for a truly exceptional red wine. My only real criticism is the length of wait between courses, however it is a fantastic meal and a great start to the festival.
2 Gloucester Street, Brighton, BN1 4EW
I was invited to review and the meal was complimentary, this had no bearing on the outcome of the review which was honest and impartial as always.